Meet the Hearthstone wonderkid who the pros come to for help

Competitive Spirit

PC Gamer: Which decks do you think are strong to ladder with now?

Amnesiac: I’ve been playing some quite eclectic decks. I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to build Warlock so that it actually beats the Secret Paladin and right now I’ve settled on Baron Geddon-Mad Bomber Handlock, which has actually been pretty good. I’m rank 2 non-legend which is pretty good for the beginning of the season considering how little I’ve played. [The interview took place in the first week of September - Ed’s note.] I think teching to beat Paladin is going to be the biggest challenge and finding a deck that consistently beats it. Because even with Patron Warrior I’ve found that sometimes they can actually just grind me out, especially if they’re running Equality and happen to have Equality-Consecration at the right time.

The unstoppable rise of Secret Paladin

Mysterious Challenger

Mysterious Challenger was largely overlooked when The Grand Tournament’s new cards were previewed, but has proved to be the most powerful addition in the new set. The initial reasoning was that Paladin secrets were so bad, that even playing them for free wouldn’t make it worth clogging your deck with one-Mana cards.
Well, it turns out that if you can play all of them in a single turn, it creates a nightmare scenario for almost any deck to play around. So much so that Mysterious Challenger has now been dubbed ‘Dr. Six’, a reference both to the fact that you drop him on turn six, and to the game’s other currently most overpowered card, Dr. Boom, who gets called ‘Dr. Seven’ and ‘Dr. Balanced’.
You’ll run into a variety of Secret Paladin lists on ladder as it’s being refined. Some are super aggro in style, using Divine Favor to refill the player’s hand, while others are more midrange-y and only use one copy of some secrets. Here’s a recent list from Tempo Storm’s Kaldi.

PC Gamer: Do you think that Secrets Paladin deck is just going to be flavor of the month, or do you think it really is a new tier one deck that’s going to stick around for quite a while?

Amnesiac: I think it has the potential to be the strongest deck in the game, and right now it’s definitely the most popular. I don’t think anybody has tried every list and decided on the best one. People are just going with their instincts. I’ve seen a lot of midrange ones, I’ve seen a lot of aggressive ones—I personally think that the aggressive one makes more sense having played a little bit of both, because when you draw your secrets you want them to actually do something. So if you put in Secretkeeper you can run away with the game using that, or you can win just because of the turn six Mysterious Challenger.

PC Gamer: Which are the other players that really rate as deck builders who are the guys are going to really keep pushing the meta?

Amnesiac: Well Firebat for sure, he’s one of the best deck builders in the world. You kind of put me on the spot. [Laughs] JustSaiyan is one of the best deck builders in the world. He signed to Tempo Storm recently and is a friend of mine. He has a really good grasp of what cards are really key to a deck and what you can afford to cut. He was one of the first people to start cutting a Sap from Rogue which is something I really agree with.

PC Gamer: What was the logic behind the cut?

Amnesiac: Well Sap is basically a dead card against Patron Warrior. You can Sap Gnomish Inventor and you can Sap Emperor Thaurissan. Neither of those are good Sap targets, and they’re the best Sap targets in the deck. So it really is a dead card against them. If you can cut that and just put in an extra minion, like an extra 4-drop, that helps that match-up a lot, so it was definitely a good cut from him.

PC Gamer: I fell two games short of getting legend for the first time last season. What advice would you give players who want to try and hit legend for the first time?

Amnesiac: Start grinding early so you don’t feel the time constraint. If you’re able to get to rank 3 non-legend, then you’re definitely capable of getting legend. It’s more of a time thing, so if you start laddering early in the season and pace yourself through it then A) you’ll enjoy the game more and B) you’re more likely to hit legend because you won’t have the time pressure.

PC Gamer: Do you plan to start competing at more LANs?

Amnesiac: I definitely would like to. I do have some obligations, like I can’t miss school for any sort of absurdly prolonged amount of time, but I can miss a couple days probably twice in a school year, here or there. But I’d definitely be interested in competing in a LAN, especially because I feel like I have a pretty reasonable chance of winning, or at least placing highly. So I would like to see if I could make some waves and maybe win.

Every time I go into a game, I feel as though if I don’t get unlucky I’m going to win.

PC Gamer: Do you think there’s a different mindset between the players who are high level ladder grinders versus those who are regularly winning tournaments?

Amnesiac: I think it was a lot different when the Last Hero Standing format was the popular one, but with Conquest you just bring the three strongest decks or the three decks you’re most comfortable with. It’s a lot more like ladder, generally the better player will just win, so I think the ladder players are now doing better in a tournament setting—which is good for me, because I’m predominantly a ladder player. But I think the mindset is fairly similar at this point.

PC Gamer: Kolento recently said that because the game is fundamentally about RNG, his job as a player is to just maximise his chances. Do you agree with that?

Amnesiac: Yeah. Every time I go into a game, I feel as though if I don’t get unlucky I’m going to win, so I do my best to make sure that things stay in as stable an environment as possible. So I’ll play safe in a lot of cases, even though it will put me in a slightly disadvantageous position, because I feel as though I can outplay my opponent and get back to a 50/50 scenario or an advantageous position. Of course, I’m not afraid to pull the trigger and let luck be a factor if I feel as though I’m behind, but whenever I feel even then I continue to play for even. And if I’m ahead, I’ll never try to increase variance at all. It’s like Artosis said: "When you’re ahead, get more ahead".

Secret Paladin is also known as the 'Christmas Tree' deck, for visually obvious reasons.

Secret Paladin is also known as the 'Christmas Tree' deck, for visually obvious reasons.

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Tim Clark

With over two decades covering videogames, Tim has been there from the beginning. In his case, that meant playing Elite in 'co-op' on a BBC Micro (one player uses the movement keys, the other shoots) until his parents finally caved and bought an Amstrad CPC 6128. These days, when not steering the good ship PC Gamer, Tim spends his time complaining that all Priest mains in Hearthstone are degenerates and raiding in Destiny 2. He's almost certainly doing one of these right now.